Letter Re: Helicopter and Fixed Wing Drones for Retreat Security

Friday, Feb 8, 2013

James,
I am not an RC aircraft enthusiast, but I am a pilot and an engineer, and have a few comments regarding the article "Helicopter and Fixed Wing Drones for Retreat Security", but Long Jim.

I suggest folks consider fixed wing aircraft rather than helicopters for this mission for a number of reasons:

1. Helicopters have more moving parts, and therefore more places for a critical failure to occur that would take the aircraft out of action. This makes them less reliable (or requires higher maintenance for same level of reliability.)

2. The main advantage of a helicopter - the ability to hover - makes them an easier target.

3. Helicopters tend to be noisier than fixed wing aircraft.

4. The learning curve to fly a helicopter is steeper and more error prone. You can get around this a bit with RC helicopters by adding electronics, but this adds expense, more places for failure, and reduces the useful load of your aircraft.

In general, I would suggest the following:

1. Go with a fixed wing design, preferably something similar to "free flight" models, as these require little to no active management. This means less sophisticated electronics (less expensive, less weight) and reduces complexity.

2. Go with electric motors rather than glow plug fuel. It's quieter, and the on board power can be used for multiple purposes.

3. Put the cameras/instruments in an external pod slung under the fuselage. This way, you are not constrained by the shape of the fuselage, and can shift the mount point to keep the center of gravity just forward of the center of lift.

4. Get your ham radio license. If you use ham radio to control the aircraft and receive the live TV signal, you can legally use more power to do it, and potentially give the aircraft much greater range.

5. Look for a camera which produces MPEG-4 data, and consider using the 1.2 Ghz ham band for the down link. Check for bandwidth compliance.

6. Consider adding a microphone to the instrument package. Hearing gunshots or vehicle noises could be useful.

- B. In the High Desert


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